On My Mind

Updated 4~22~04

Why do you do it?

I've been thinking lately about the reasons for maintaining a personal website, mostly because I've let my (very nice and well-made) site get hideously stagnant. I hadn't updated it at all in over a year, even though the guilt hung heavily.

It made me reflect on the changing reasons for having a personal website.

I started mine in 1995 when HTML was a cool new frontier and patterned backgrounds were all the rage. Everyone who was in the know had a similar website: My History, My Hobbies, My Resume, Handy Internet Links. Before search engines became so powerful, one's page of links was a good way to show off the things you were able to find and your quirky tastes.

But this is not about nostalgia. Since then, my site evolved through a few design changes into a sort of advertisement for friends and lovers. Subconsciously, I mean. My reason for having a good site was to make myself look interesting, creative, and intelligent. I wanted to be able to give the address to someone I met and believe that they could read over the site and learn all (the good things) about me. It worked pretty well with my husband... we read each other's websites before our first date, and it gave us a much richer getting-to-know-you conversation.

My motivation in that area has faded now that I'm a bit older. I'm married, so my drive to meet interesting people to date has cooled. I also have a set of friends that I'm happy with. I don't mean to say that I'm not open to meeting new friends now... I mean that I am no longer looking to new acquaintances to help define myself and send my life off in some new crazy direction. I'm happier and more stable.

Which leads to a big lack of motivation to update my website. And I wondered if I should remove it completely, or put up a note saying it was finished (leaving the content but not promising updates). I thought about the other reasons why other people keep websites. I am not an aspiring writer, and so don't need the site to hone my skills. I'm not a heart-on-the-sleeve type who lets it all hang out. I'm not very interested (although maybe I should be) in recording my life for posterity. I found two valid reasons for continuing:

    1. Friends and acquaintances from the past who check in once or twice a year to see what I'm up to (hi guys!). This round of navel gazing was spurred by an email I got from just such a person (saying she wished I had updated). I check up on others this way myself, and I think it's a good way to keep in touch when you don't want (for whatever reason) to contact the person one-on-one.

    2. Helping others with my content. I don't want to make this sound any larger than it really is, but I have parts of this website that people write and thank me for (or ask follow-up questions). These include my sections on triathlon training, my laser eye surgery, and my backpacking trip. To my surprise, other people find these interesting and helpful.

Discovering these reasons will help me to focus my work on my website so it hopefully won't be as daunting a task. As you can see, it motivated me to actually update the site!

Any of you who have a personal website - why do you do it? Has it always been for the same reasons, or has it changed?

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